Press release

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink, expert warns

Published on 4 October 2021

Climate change jeopardises the future of some of Scotland’s most notable industries, a University of Dundee expert has warned.

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Dr Sarah Halliday, from the University’s Geography and Environmental Science department, says that action to tackle a warming planet is needed to prevent an increase in water shortages for Scotland’s citizens and its agriculture sector. Unreliable water supplies could also threaten the function of hydropower facilities and its world-famous whisky industry, unless urgent action to tackle climate change is adopted.

Dr Halliday made the stark warning as she prepares to host an online panel event on the subject, part of the University’s Festival of the Future, on Thursday 7 October.

“Climate change is putting increasing pressure on our freshwater resources and dependent ecosystems here in Scotland,” she said.

“Changes in rainfall patterns and increases in extreme events means flash floods and droughts are both becoming increasingly common.

“In July, over half the month’s rainfall fell in one hour, leading to significant flash flooding in Edinburgh. This was despite the summer of 2021 being the fourth hottest summer since records began. The consequence is that significant areas of Scotland are experiencing moderate water scarcity now.”

As well as the societal impact, Dr Halliday also warned that Scottish industry is at risk from climate change.

“If reduced river flow becomes the norm then this has additional consequences,” she added.

“Hydropower schemes and whisky distilleries, whose abstraction consents are linked not only to the quantity of water in our rivers but also its temperature, could be disrupted.

“Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures result in increased need for crop irrigation, exacerbating water shortages, and threating the future viability of many of our traditional crops.

“We are running out of time to protect our water resources and that is why it is imperative we adapt, or we will fail to meet the U.N Sustainable Development Goal No.6, which ensures availability and sustainable management of water for all.”

Dr Halliday will host three speakers at this week’s event, including Dr Caroline Clason, a Dundee graduate and now Associate Professor of Glaciology at the University of Plymouth, who will discuss her work on the importance of glaciers as water resources.

Joining her will be the University of Dundee’s Dr Andrew Black, who will discuss natural flood management approaches to mitigate the effects of climate change in Scotland, and Nandan Mukherjee, a post-doctoral research fellow at Dundee, who will introduce his United Nations award-winning work on creating sustainable floating homes in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh.

The event, titled Festival of the Future COP26 Series: Water, takes place on Thursday 7 October from 2-4pm. This virtual event is free to attend, but places must be booked in advance online.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489
Story category Events and exhibitions
Collection Climate Action